Last Saturday, I left my solitary life in a small apartment in the Brasso Oriental section of Montevideo, Uruguay, and returned to hostel life… with a twist. The Hostel Portones in Carrasco, a very fancy residential part of the city, was once a grand Uruguayan estate, built to resemble an English Country House of the previous century. (http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Hostel-Portones-de-Carrasco/Montevideo/50702?dateFrom=2014-02-21&dateTo=2014-02-24&sc_sau=avdc&sc_pos=14)
It’s grand, in a big roughhewn, wooden beams and white brick, thatch-roofed, way and a whole new experience for me in hostel living. The thatched ceiling soars high above the living room, bearing a heavy black chain and wrought-iron chandelier, which once must have held gigantic candles… now, only the latest spiral fluorescent light bulbs. Our massive fireplace will be crackling with burning logs in about six months. Over to the left side of the big room is a heavy wooden staircase leading to the loft balcony and most of the many bedrooms and suites, including my $15 per night, five-bedroom dorm room. Wide, creaking wooden planks make a very smooth brown flooring throughout. The Master Suite (ensuite) is just inside the front door, opposite the entry to the Grand Sala.
Outside, the green, tree-filled grounds are most-frequently a guest parking area. A few modern bungalows facing the main building can house family groups and even the Uruguayan Junior Olympic girl’s hockey team, which while they stayed here, beat the U.S. team to qualify for the finals. Luckily, I arrived on their last day here, because the hostel employees were wiped out by the challenge of feeding thirteen girls and their coaches every meal, every day.
I wonder if every Great House has such a tiny kitchen? Decorated in white and blue tile, to be sure; but a room where the cooks and servants of yore must have trod all over each other in whomping up every meal. No one has yet torn down the wall between the little ante room and the kitchen but it really wouldn’t add too many square feet. In regular hostel mode, it doesn’t bother us guests, though most of us might grab our meals a few blocks away in the modern, truly over-the-top, shopping center nearby.
I’ve discovered the joys of attending the huge cinema in this mall and am soaking up some American films with English behind their Spanish subtitles. It’s been so long since I’ve been to a movie theater and have just seen Philomena, with Judy Dench; and the latest road trip by Freeman, DiNiro, Douglas and Kline: Lost Vegas.
Also, this unusual hostel offers a chance to get a taste of being in a Senior Citizen Residential Home… odd as that may sound. There are a few old men, (younger than I am, but farts, anyway) who have dug in here, not needing any sort of personal care, but adrift in life from broken marriages and such. They just sit around. Carlos (65) is now in command of the couch on the porch, holding his eternal cigarette and nursing his mate’ thermos, cup and bombilla. Sometimes, a lookalike, twenty years his junior, joins him out there. Another older man ignores them but floats anonymously about. None of them seem to speak English but they don’t talk to the Spanish-speakers, either. They just exist. Don’t even read a book in all this downtime. But, this big old country house has seen it all and simply absorbs us.
Next Monday, I shall bus back to Colonia for a few days. My visa must be renewed and I will ferry across the Rio de la Plata to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I haven’t decided whether to stay there awhile or not. But, when I ferry back to Uruguay, my visa will reinstall for another three months. Since I have not gone through the administrative hoops to extend my stay into the winter months (and why should I, as it gets quite cold here?), I will head north into warmer territory in June Peru, Ecuador, Central America, Belize.
Meantime, I hope to work on a fourth book made up of the blog postings for my In Secret Diffusion website and get that translated into a Spanish language ebook. This is the result of a few friends here offering to help me get that accomplished, so I hope that our next three months can be enough to accomplish that.
Meanwhile, I’m kicking back in my country house, surrounded by luxury homes on all sides. I’ll tell you what! Nobody sacrifices Quality of Life by coming to Uruguay!